Sunday 1 August 2010

Spectrum Magazine 1st Aug 2010

Mates Rates

I don,t know how many people I have, biked, snowboarded climbed and travelled with in the course of 30 years plus of adventuring. Hundreds I am sure, some you meet for a day and you will always remember the gifts of openness and friendship they have given you, others I have travelled with half way across the 5 continents with and they have no lasting impression o me at all. Some push your buttons and make you just plain frustrated; others stay in your heart and life forever. All these encounters and meetings whether they fill your life or not are apparently all just mirrors of your own character, (so I am told). What I mean by this is that if they piss you off or make you fall in love, each soul you bounce around with somehow is just a mirror to a small part of your existence and they are there to teach you lessons of tolerance, patience, fun and frolics and inspiration.

Ok that’s the life lesson; I suppose the question is does sharing excitement, danger travel and a tent make you friends. I believe the answers is no, sure it creates a library of sheared experiences, but to a degree if you are very active you will often find yourself standing on top of a 50 degree couloir, or at the base of a climb with someone who fits into another category, a convenient pliable symbiotic relationship.

In the early years it could be a bunch of “mates” sharing a lift, cars and petrol money. Back in the distant past jerry, Roy, Jerry, Jim and I all shared a love for climbing. At the time we were climbing in the Lake District a lot and we collectively over a small student beer or two we thought that it would be a great idea to buy a wagon to transport our climbing ambitions to the far-off romance of the crags and mountains of the world.

We all had no clue about cars and as I had some time, all the others were doing “serious” degrees, I was just playing with cameras at collage, it was left to me to gather in the cash, find the buggy and make the deal. £600 quid later we were the proud owners of a huge white 10 year old Avenger Estate car (Automatic). We dutifully all inspected the car. All collectively nodding in ignorance that it at least looked nice. Friday night came and we filled the car with 5 bodies, a bunch of tents and the requisite number of loafs of bread for a long weekend in Borrowdale.

By Biggar I knew we had bought a dummy, the temperature gage seemed to be climbing a little fast. By Crawford services the bonnet was up and steam was pouring out of the radiator, we decided to go for it anyway. However slowing down seemed to require a lot of foot pumping to get the breaks to slow down the overloaded white beast. We laughed a little as we were still on our way. So at a steady 60mph. we chugged on, with the three working 3 cylinders belching smoke (I was told the timing was out,). How was I to know that the cylinder head was partially blown and the engine block cracked?

Down in the Lakes things seemed to be better, but every mile of the journey was an exercise in massive communal belief that every thing was ok and were we going to get to the cliffs. Driving at 40mph suited the beast a little better, but the fact it seemed to roll alarmingly in the corners may have suggested to those with car knowledge that the shocks were knackered. Heading into Langdale we all become a little more chipper. The campsite was in sight and we could almost taste the tinned bean supper. Climbing a little hill between the two valleys went by in a smokey trail. We found that listening to The Clash’s London calling at volume 11 helped drown out the various metallic idiosyncrasies ( grinding), a great exercise in crises management. Ignore it, until it blows up.

This happy band of rock punks were soon heading down a steeping twisty Lake District hill onto a junction with the busy A road that lead into the heart of Langdale.

A swift application of the breaks resulted in no desirable slowing of the four wheeled mobile coffin, the bald tyres screeching and bending under the weight of the out of control brute. It seemed to cause no alarm to the singing and dancing passengers in the rusty shell, which looking back was probably just held together by paint. A T-junction appeared at the end of our single-track road. A two lane road with cars flashing by and a massive looming drystone wall rushed up to the steering wheel I was holding, 30 feet from the end of the lane, suddenly the cab suddenly grew quieter as the entourage realised that I was ashen faced pumping the rusty floor pan with all my might in an effort to slow the runaway down. Some remained quiet accepting that the die hand been cast, others resorted to panic and shouted quick-fire driving instructions as we shot out off the lane without stopping, across the busy road and headed for the ancient wall. With a mighty tug on the steering wheel that could well have torn the wheel off its mountings, we scraped the wall in a plume of black smoke and steam.

With the pure force of unchecked momentum we continued up the valley in the direction of the pub. “Maybe we should get this thing checked out by someone who knows cars” I said.

Roy is now a teacher in Edinburgh, and still doesn’t pay for coffees, Jim lives in Australia, Jerry now writes climbing guides and Lives in Las Vegas and for my part I miss them all, the laughs and time and climbs we shared together.

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